Lieberman endorsement strikes a blow for the rest of us


Editorial Page Editor

    “In this critical election, no one should let party lines be a barrier to choosing the person we believe is best qualified to lead our nation forward. The problems that confront us are too great… for us to play partisan politics with the Presidency.
    “We desperately need our next President to break through the reflexive partisanship that is poisoning our politics and stopping us from getting things done.”

            — Sen. Joe Lieberman,
            endorsing John McCain

JOHN McCAIN got an early Christmas present up in New Hampshire Monday. So did the UnParty.
    The UnParty, I should explain, is a product of my wishful imagination, an anti-partisan alternative to the foolish, vicious Punch and Judy show that the two parties play out daily on 24/7 TV “news” channels. It has no infrastructure, no declared candidates, and exists mainly on my blog and in gratuitous mentions here that probably mystify more than inform.
    John McCain, however, is far more substantial. He is an actual U.S. senator who is seeking the Republican nomination for president of the United States. You may have heard of him, in spite of what sometimes looks like a conspiracy on the part of major media and poll respondents to make him seem a marginal figure.
    The Christmas present to which I refer was the endorsement of Joe Lieberman, late of the Democratic Party, who strode triumphant over the yammering partisans of his own former faction in last year’s elections and is now perhaps the only major political figure in this country who is really and truly free to endorse whomever he honestly believes is the best candidate. And out of the crowds of candidates seeking the office, he chooses to endorse his friend and colleague John McCain, and parties be damned.
    This is not the only big present Sen. McCain has received early this week. On Sunday, he was endorsed by three newspapers, two of them being The Des Moines Register and The Boston Globe. (The third was the less-well-known Portsmouth Herald in New Hampshire.) Between them, they eclipsed the earlier endorsement he had received from the storied New Hampshire Union Leader.
    (Santa wasn’t quite as generous to other boys and girls. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had to share the loot: Des Moines went for Sen. Clinton; Boston for Sen. Obama.)
    An excerpt from the Globe’s McCain endorsement:

    “Conventional wisdom among political handlers used to hold that a candidate needed to capture the political center. The last two presidential campaigns proved that wrong. The Republicans scraped out victories by pressing just enough buttons and mobilizing just enough voters. But such wins breed political polarization and deprive a president of the political capital needed to ask Americans to sacrifice in difficult times.
    “The antidote to such a toxic political approach is John McCain. The iconoclastic senator from Arizona has earned his reputation for straight talk by actually leveling with voters, even at significant political expense….
    “As a lawmaker and as a candidate, McCain has done more than his share to transcend partisanship and promote an honest discussion of the problems facing the United States….”

    You’ll note a certain resemblance to the quote above from Sen. Lieberman — the emphasis on getting outside the respective comfort zones of the partisans, and having the courage and conviction to make the hard choices that are necessary to further the good of the country. Echoing a John F. Kennedy speech I recently cited here, Sen. Lieberman said Sen. McCain can be trusted to do the right thing “not only when it is easy, but when it is hard.”
    That’s what appeals to me about the Lieberman endorsement. It’s not so much that he endorses McCain as the reasons he gives.
    At this point I should note that this column is not about boosting the candidacy of John McCain. I know better. The fact is, Sen. McCain’s biggest problem in the South Carolina primary may be the fact that he is not seen as “Republican enough” by some, and this endorsement hardly helps. He does work across the aisle — on campaign finance reform, on fighting corporate welfare and global warming, on promoting rational immigration policy. He does take stands on the basis of the greater good, with little regard for personal political consequences. And there are people who don’t like those facts.
    To the extent that there is electoral advantage to be derived, it’s in New Hampshire, where, as The Washington Post notes, the McCain campaign is once again “targeting independents more than it is establishment Republicans.” But even there, the benefit is debatable. It certainly doesn’t pull over any Democrats, to whom Mr. Lieberman is anathema.
    What is most exciting about this endorsement is less the hope it offers the McCain campaign, and more the hope it offers for American politics that something like this can even happen.
    Over here at the UnParty — where anything that confuses both partisan Democrats and partisan Republicans is welcome — the Lieberman endorsement is very encouraging news. Lord knows that these days, in the 16th year of the bloody Bush-Clinton Wars, we don’t get much of that.


14 thoughts on “Lieberman endorsement strikes a blow for the rest of us

  1. Pfc Marjus Andreason

    Why is it that McCain gets so much of his support from Independents and Democrats, yet he refuses to use the term “Democratic Party” and always lowers himself as Bush does by saying “The Democrat Party”.
    Doesn’t he understand the massive fundraising programs he could be benefitting from.
    While I realize to some degree, it is a petty mistake — yet look at all of the other Republicans. They respectfully call them the “Democratic” Party.
    I would like to support McCain, but it is sickening to hear him say that over and over again.
    Maybe some day he’ll get the word and he’ll stop doing it? They made a fool out of him saying on the trail recently on MSNBC Hardball; playing clips of him saying it over and over at different locations.
    Want to send MONEY — but not until he learns to speak with respect to all of the parties who wish to assist him.

  2. Hubert

    Lieberman endorsement of McCain? It’s the pro war people who will support this endorsement. Where have you been for the past 4 years?

  3. Phillip

    Brad, again it’s worth pointing out that crossing party lines to support a cause or an individual does not in and of itself make that cause or individual especially worthy of support. We have the example here in the South some years ago of Southern Democrats who (before they changed their party allegiances outright) “crossed over” in a “bipartisan” manner to join with Republicans in supporting continued segregationist policies. The fact that they worked across party lines did not make their cause just or right.
    Of course I’m not equating McCain and Lieberman with Thurmond and his ilk…but since there are other candidates who seem to rise above partisan politics (Obama) then one has to, in the end, still look at the positions of the particular candidate.
    McCain, while he towers over his GOP opponents in character and integrity, still is burdened with the wrong view on Iraq and American interventionism. Since that still is near the top of most people’s concerns (if not as dominant as it was a few months ago) it will sink McCain as it would sink probably every other GOP candidate (unless Hillary is nominated).
    Which brings me to your sentence “it certainly doesn’t pull over any Democrats, to whom Mr. Lieberman is anathema.” That is an overgeneralization and a misunderstanding. As I said at the time of his primary defeat to Ned Lamont, for many people it was not Lieberman’s defection-per-se from party orthodoxy that caused anger, it was that he did so on the most important issue of the day where the stakes were—and are— so high. It’s the same as if one day Jim Rex said, “you know what, Sanford is right on vouchers and using public funds to pay for private education in SC.”
    Speaking of other leaders who reach across party lines, didn’t Lindsay Graham say something about Iraq like “If they don’t deliver in 90 days, I will openly say the chances for political reconciliation are remote” about 90 days ago?

  4. bud

    It is absolutely critical that we elect a real Democrat to the presidency next year. The Republicans, including Lieberman, are responsible for the slow suffocation of American ideals and our way of life. By throwing away any hope for a lasting peace in the Middle East the Liebermans and McCains of the world have shown the world an arrogant side of America that will cost us dearly in blood and treasure for many years to come. The Liebermans and McCains of the world have ensured a continued presence of extremists for generations to come. A sign of just how fragile the lull in violence is is demonstrated by the Turkish invasion of Kurdish Iraq. It is simply not possible for American armed forces to secure a lasting peace in a region that requires diplomacy and tact rather than brute force violence.
    As for domestic issues, Lieberman, by supporting a Republican, is helping to continue with the failed Republican health care agenda that continues to waste billions of dollars while leaving us with the 38th longest life expectancy in the world. This is perhaps the most significant waste of resources in the history of the world. Countries that spend far less per capita on health care have far longer life expectancies. This is a genuine crime that Lieberman’s endorsement helps continue.
    In 2006 the people of Connecticut made a grave error supporting a war-mongering enabler of Republican failure. I’m sure there is much buyer regret right now in the Nutmeg State.

  5. Doug Ross

    That first picture looks like the typical scene you see in Myrtle Beach when the senior citizen tour bus pulls up to the buffet restaurant.
    I don’t see how one old white career politician endorsing another old white career politician will have much impact on how America votes. There wss no Joe-mentum in 2004 and there’s not going to be any McComeback in 2008.
    I hope your line about the conspiracy of the major media and poll respondents was a joke. McCain had $30 million dollars and a high ranking in the national polls just six months ago. Now he’s fifth and running out of money. He was the media darling in 2000. Now, he’s yesterday’s news. Sometimes things are what they are.

  6. Phillip

    My original comment here was one of those that got lost…its fresh and brilliant insight is lost to posterity forever, and this pale recreation of it will have to suffice:
    Basically I was needling you a little bit again about the fact that crossing party lines or “confusing both partisan Democrats or partisan Republicans” is not necessarily a noble end in itself. In this part of the country, we saw Southern Democrats (before they switched parties) “crossing the aisle” to join with some Republicans to support segregationist policies. You could call that bipartisanship of a sort.
    And as I was reminded today while listening to NPR, just last election we had an even more high-profile cross-party endorsement, that of Sen. Zell Miller for President Bush at the convention no less! And we all remember what a blow for even-headed, calm and rational political discourse that endorsement constituted.
    Now of course I believe McCain is an honorable man, and if Lieberman is “anathema” to Democrats, I think it’s less for bolting the party per se and more for being wrong on the most important issue of recent years, Iraq. They’re both still wrong on this issue. It’s nice that they can team up across the aisle, but I’m guessing that the real cross-party “endorsements” that are going to matter are the ones that will be take place in the privacy of voting booths across the country next November.

  7. Gerald Baker

    I’ve read that McCain’s candidacy got derailed in South Carolina in 2000, due to racist lies spread by the Falwell Gang.
    You say Lieberman belongs to an “Un-Party.” I recognize him as a devout member of the “War Party.” He reminds me of Dickens’ character “Uriah Heep.”
    Yesterday, I did a Google search for the 3 words “Uriah Heep Lieberman,” and found this comment, among others:
    “Lieberman is a sanctimonious hypocrite who would make Uriah Heep look good.”
    I’d think any self-respecting person would consider it a disgrace to be endorsed by the likes of Lieberman. McCain must feel inwardly ashamed, to want the presidency, that badly.
    “What profit it a man, to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
    (In using the above Biblical quotation, I regard the word “soul” as a metaphor for “integrity.”)

  8. JDuncan

    Joe Lieberman represents a party of one. His endorsement carries no weight and rightfully so.
    Holy Joe, as members of his own temple call him, ran for re-election in 2006 pledging to work for a Democratic president in 2008. Joe’s credibility in non-existant. Can anyone smell a hypocrite and liar?
    Joe’s only schtick now that gets him any of his craved attention is to suck-up to Republicans. Zell Miller #2 will always attract lazy journalists who thrill to phony “bipartisanship”.

  9. Kai

    Someone has a remarkably bad memory of events. Lieberman’s endorsement raises eyebrows just a tiny bit, but it’s hardly a surprise and it’s hardly a “blow struck for the rest of us.” And why? Because Lieberman has NOT, and I repeat NOT, represented “the rest of us” for a long time now.
    No offense, but what struck me about this article is how superficial the analysis is. Just because Lieberman was a former Democrat who endorses McCain, that makes him a member of the “UnParty” that you termed? What is being convieniently ignored is Joe Lieberman’s voting records as a Senator, and his political views. Lieberman and McCain are the same people in their ideologies.
    In fact, this isn’t an example of “UnParty.” Quite the contrary, this is a prime example of partisanship. It is a case of two like-minded war hawks banding together.

  10. Gerald Baker

    I suppose you might have wondered what caused me to make the previous comment. However, I live in northeast Iowa, and all branches of my family have lived here, since the 1850s.
    I like Iowa, especially this part of it. However, I’ve noticed that, many times, there are stupid and nasty comments posted in response to items in the “Des Moines Register.” Sometimes, I think the Register made a mistake, in allowing comments, if those are the sort they are going to get.
    I found the comments about your Lieberman article to all be good ones.

  11. Brad Warthen

    Actually, Gerald, I didn’t wonder at all. I appreciate the comment, and take it as a compliment to this whole virtual community.

    We are well aware of the sort of problem to which you refer, and we’ve worked hard to do better here.

    It’s an up-and-down sort of thing; maybe you caught us on an upswing. In any case, it’s good to be appreciated.

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